Rob Zombie’s critically-acclaimed masterpiece The Devil’s Rejects is the far superior sequel to the equally gut-wrenching and terrifying House of 1000 Corpses. The pair of gore flicks follows the Fireflies, a serial killer family with no limits to their evil misgivings, their only morality taking root in the depth of their shared depravity.
However, the Firefly family is just pure fiction, since a set of real-life serial killer parents, who worked alongside their dangerous son and daughter, could not possibly exist in the real world, right? Unfortunately, while the Fireflies are (thankfully) confined to the silver screen, their real life counterparts, The Bender Family–known widely as The Bloody Benders–did in fact exist, terrorizing Cherryvale, Kansas from 1869-1872.
The Bloody Benders were a small, outwardly quiet family who ran an inn on the outskirts of Cherryvale that was open to all travelers and was equipped with a dining area, a warm bed, barn and corral for animals, as well as a two acre garden and orchard. The people of Cherryvale and the Benders’ visitors regarded the family warily since they seemed to have an oddness about them. John Bender Sr. and his wife Elvira kept to themselves most of the time and barely spoke English, preferring their native tongue of German, but their children John Bender Jr. and his sister Kate were more sociable. John Jr. and Kate were often spotted in Sunday school at the local church and were the ones to charm the visitors upon first arrival at the inn, which set the guests at ease.
Like the Fireflies, the Bloody Benders had dual personalities and their sinister dynamic worked underneath their happy exterior of family togetherness and entrepreneurship. When select guests would join the family for dinner, for instance, they would take the seat of honor that was situated in front of a curtain which divided the living space and the dining area. The ‘guest of honor’ would be graced with the delightful presence of Kate and her lively conversation, as well as John Jr., or John Sr., sneaking up behind them with a hammer striking the visitor on the head until they were dead.
A trap-door, which was expertly placed underneath the feet of the guest, would then open and their dead body would be whisked downstairs to the basement, to be dismembered and buried in a shallow grave in the family orchard soon after. The guests that were murdered were not even rich, or had anything valuable on them, so it is highly likely that the Bender family, like the Fireflies, killed for the sheer thrill and love of it.
During their escapades – which totaled eleven homicides – John Jr. and Kate were also involved in a bizarre incestuous relationship that had neighbors believing they were husband and wife, rather than brother and sister. It wasn’t until early 1873 that suspicion was aroused in Cherryvale, after a prominent doctor of the area, William York, never made it home after last being seen in the care of the Benders.
Dr. York had a brother who also happened to be a colonel that arrived on the scene with a plethora of his men in tow. After a couple days of investigating, Colonel York held a town meeting where he announced that he would be searching every home in the area. Unfortunately, the Benders had got wind of what was transpiring, and fled before the search even began, but luckily some local people found the eleven shallow graves that would become the Benders’ legacy. While many were men that appeared to be traveling, one of the victims was a young girl, guessed to be about eight years of age, who was found buried alive after one of her arms was broken and a single leg was pulled out of its socket.
Not only doe the Firefly and Bender families parallel each other in their murderous schemes and terrible, nefarious methods, they also share other, bizarre characteristics. For instance, the blatant disregard of human life in exchange for their own sick pleasure of killing is something that is lavished by both families. Likewise, the amount of deception involved, which is showcased by each set of children, exemplifies their value to their treacherous kin, given their ability to manipulate regular people.
Although Kate did distract guests before their death, she made the inn popular by posting false claims of being a doctor and a psychic around the town. She would invite the vulnerable to be ‘healed’, but some of these people instead received the unfortunate fate of blunt force trauma. Similarly, Otis and Baby Firefly fooled hotel guests, in The Devil’s Rejects, so they could gain access to other rooms where they ultimately toyed with innocent people before slaughtering them like animals.
Furthermore, under duress and being discovered by law enforcement, both families fled, but while the Fireflies were caught and killed, the Bloody Benders mysteriously disappeared and their fate is still unknown to this day.
Although the fictional Firefly Family could be considered more terrifying, since the possibility of real life counterparts exist, there is one positive adage – a family that kills together seems to stay together.